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It isn’t over until it’s over

POSTED June 3, 2011 7:43 p.m.

I did not see the majority of the Dallas Mavericks’ late-game comeback against the Miami Heat on Thursday night in the second game of the NBA Finals. Like most spectators, I thought the Mavs were done after being down by 15 points with 7:15 minutes left, so I went away from the TV for a few minutes.

When I returned, Dirk Nowitzki concluded his Mavs’ rally with a game-winning layup with 3.6 seconds left to even the series at 1-1 with a 95-93 victory. Game 3 is Sunday.

My friends and I tried to make sense of what had happened. It was hard to explain.

That’s the beauty of sports. It’s chaotic and unpredictable. In my five years of covering sports at all levels, I’ve witnessed numerous “Did that just happen?” moments. However, the most amazing sports moment I’ve witnessed didn’t occur in Turlock. It happened when I caught my teenage nephew’s varsity boys basketball game in Fresno on Feb. 18, 2009. Jaronie Samnang’s Roosevelt High team traveled to take on crosstown rival Fresno High.

The game was lopsided, and it was my nephew’s team that was losing. I went to Fresno with the intentions of watching his game before catching a movie with a friend. Since it tipped off about 30 minutes late, the game complicated my later plan.

I was watching the game with Jaronie’s older brother, Jason, and I told Jason, “If Jaronie’s team is losing by more than 20 points with 4 minutes left, I’m leaving.” By that time, Roosevelt was down by 15 points. Even so, I didn’t think the Rough Riders would actually come back.

I will never question the beauty of sports again.

The Rough Riders scored 14 points in the final minute to win 65-62.

How?

It happened two years ago, so I phoned Jaronie. This is what he remembers about the final minute: Teammate Dupree Snowden connected on back-to-back 3-point plays before Edward Fernandez sank 3 of 4 free throws after two technical fouls against Fresno High for misbehavior (read: frustration). Somewhere in the chaos, another teammate scored a bucket. My nephew missed a potential game-winner from 20 feet with 6 seconds left, causing a mad scramble for the ball. The refs issued possession to Fresno High with 2 seconds left, leading Jaronie to guard the inbound passer.

“They took the ball out and I was jumping up and down and all that stuff,” he said. “Dude started panicking. I could tell. He didn’t have anyone open so he threw the ball toward midcourt thinking no one was there (before being called for a 5-second violation). But Edward happened to be right where he threw the ball.

“Edward caught it and took the shot.”

The half-court buzzer-beater went in. The hero, out of pure elation, took off his jersey and ran circles around the opposing team’s court. The Fresno High fans looked volatile, as the Roosevelt High fans, including myself, were escorted out by the police.

I made it out safely and just in time to catch a movie with a friend, who asked me how the game went. I couldn’t possibly begin to explain, I said.

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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